Kiitos Consul General Juha Markkanen and Tuula Markkanen for hosting such a beautiful celebratory event in Los Angeles.

Quoting from Ava Anttila’s most recent ‘AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Hail and Farewell’ (dedicated to her father Finnish Veteran Ari Anttila who I missed so very much at this year’s celebration):

‘There is a long legacy of individuals and organizations continuing in the Finnish tradition that will make sure that what is true, righteous, and proud in our history, heritage, and national treasure will live on. We will share our history; we will work hard; we will never forget; we will honor your Sisu and sacrifice.’

Here are some pictures of the the event by photographer Jonny Kahleyn:

Vintage Jewelry and Natural Parfums Sale  Until 12/15 (Use code HIMOM15 for a 15% discount)

Vintage Jewelry and Natural Parfums Sale Until 12/15 (Use code HIMOM15 for a 15% discount)


Reporter, pictures: Tomi Hinkkanen

One must humbly admit that Finland cannot even begin to compete with our dear neighbor, Sweden, when it comes to movie stars and other Hollywood luminaries. After all, Sweden has given us Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Lena Olin. Nevertheless, over the years there has been a steady Finnish presence in Tinseltown. Some of the Hollywood Finns have been serious artists, some shooting stars and some just famous for being famous. Here’s a  few mental sketches of some Finnish Hollywood celebs, whom I’ve met personally while working here as a journalist since 1994.


Renny Harlin signing a petition to keep the Consulate General of Finland in LA open, January 2012.


There has never been a bigger Finnish star in Hollywood than director-producer Renny Harlin. He has had a long and illustrious Hollywood career with hits such as Nightmare on Elm Street Part Four, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea. I have met Renny several times over the years. The very first time we met was around 1985 or so, when his very first movie, Born American was shown in Hollywood. I was a film student then, lived in Hollywood and just happened to notice that his movie was being shown in a local theater. Renny had long hair back then that was tied in a ponytail. He was standing in the theater lobby and I walked up to him to introduce myself. He asked me, if I had seen the movie yet. No I haven’t, I said. He then gave me a ticket and invited me to a party in the Hollywood Hills after the screening. Later on I was a young journalist in Finland, when he brought his then-wife Geena Davis for a visit. It was a media circus. I have met Renny at various occasions after that. He is always a gentleman. Last January at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills, he spoke lovingly of his dog Little Harlin, who had died recently. During the post-production of his movie, 5 Days of War, the dog got a special permit on the Warner Bros. lot, where pets aren’t normally allowed. The reason was that Little Harlin was Renny’s muse that helped him edit the picture. Afterwards Renny signed our petition to keep the Consulate General of Finland in LA open.

Renny Harlin with girlfriend Erika Marchino

Harlin is a striking presence. Heads turn when he walks into a room. He is tall, handsome, blond, one of the most confident men I have ever met. Many ladies have lost their heart to the tall Finnish Viking. He’s been elusive about giving interviews lately, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Renny, if you happen to read this, I promise to make it real classy and do the best interview ever written about you.


Renny Harlin and Finnish model Pia Pakarinen at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills, January 2012.


I met Taina Elg when she toured with a theater group, performing in a musical version of Titanic in 1997. Elg played the real life character Mrs. Strauss, who rather went down with the ship to remain with her husband than to be rescued alone. Elg was extremely friendly and open, telling me her life story – how she was discovered by an American producer and as a result, went on to sign a seven-year contract with MGM. There her most famous movie was the musical Les Girls, directed by George Cukor. She won a Golden Globe for that role. Taina was not happy with the pictures I took of her with her hair in a ponytail, but let me publish them and the story anyway. Taina Elg is now 82. She lives in with her husband, professor Rocco Caporale in New York. This Summer Elg will appear at the Sodankylä Film Festival in Lapland.


Taina Elg in the 1950's.


I wrote a whole piece about Maila on Finntimes recently. She was the most original person I have ever met. I know it’s a lot to say, but she was. Born in Petsamo,Finland, Maila created the alter ego Vampira, which she says is based on the Charles Addams character Morticia in the Addams Family. I got to know her after the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood had hit the screens in 1994.

Maila Nurmi in the autumn of her life.

She lived in a converted garage in a blue collar part of Hollywood. She had no car, but would be chauffeured around by young friends who would take her to parties and other events. Maila had been good friends with James Dean, who died tragically in a car crash at 23. She once told me that everybody had abandoned Dean during the production of George Stevens’ Giant – supposedly to strengthen his performance as a lone field hand who in the movie became a millionaire after finding oil. Maila had spent the last night with James before his death. She never quite recovered from it. Maila was an animal lover. She sheltered injured animals in her humble little adobe (I was never invited in), and had named every pigeon that she fed in front of her apartment. Maila had a fiery temper – everything was either black of white to her, there were no gray areas. Hence, her time in the limelight was brief. She introduced horror movies on KABC-TV in the mid-fifties but got into trouble with the management due to her uncompromising nature. She also appeared in a handful of Ed Wood movies, of which Plan 9 from Outer Space remains a cult favorite. Maila died at the age of 85 in 2008. She was a truly original Hollywood character.


Maila Nurmi was a Hollywood original.


Tony appeared on the Hollywood scene some time in the mid ‘90’s. The big and burly Tony boxed and wrestled and apparently was paid handsomely for both. He also had a big mouth. I never will forget the day I shot a TV segment with him. He climbed down laboriously from his second floor Venice apartment into a waiting limousine at the curb. I asked him about his limo usage. He responded: “I am chauffeured to the boxing matches and back home in a limousine and my adversary is taken to a hospital in an ambulance.”

Tony Halme appeared as "Viikinki" (the Viking), on the Finnish TV show Gladiators.

Tony got into some trouble later on when the police found illegal weapons and drugs in his apartment. He was detained and deported from the U.S. Later on Tony bounced back and got elected in the Finnish parliament (Eduskunta), on a populist platform that emphasized war veterans’ rights and shunned immigrants – refugees in particular. Frequent sick leaves marred his term and he was often incomprehensible. Then came the faithful day in July 2003. A handgun was fired in Halme’s Helsinki apartment. Tony was found inside unconscious. He remained so for days. After a DUI arrest and a stay in a mental hospital, Tony shot himself fatally in his apartment in January 2010. He was 47 years old.

Linda Lampenius had a whirlwind romance with Hollywood.


Classically trained violinist Linda Lampenius had both looks and talent. After having excelled in music, modeling and acting In Finland, she came to Hollywood in 1997 and was instantly signed up by talent agent Mike Reynolds, who spoke very highly about her to me back then. Linda’s Hollywood premiere happened in the Century Club. She played the violin in a bikini, causing an instant sensation (if not something else as well among male audience members). TV roles in Fame L.A. and Baywatch followed. But then things started to go south. Her business relationship with manager Mike Reynolds soured amidst accusations of swindling. Lawsuits followed. Linda got a difficult reputation in Hollywood that virtually ended her career before it even had begun.

Linda turned heads in Beverly Hills.

I got to spend an afternoon with her. She was dressed in a two-piece outfit that left her midriff bare, showcasing her ample bosom. Heads turned and fire trucks honked. We had lunch in Beverly Hills. She had brought along an old issue of Playboy, in which she was featured. She showed the copy to the producers we met at Caffe Roma. With Linda, there was only one topic that was spoken all day – Linda. This was after her troubles in Hollywood. So, I asked her, if her Hollywood career was now over. She got very upset about that. I dropped her off at the Playboy Mansion, where she was staying. Later on Linda continued her musical career, moved to Sweden and married a Swedish lawyer with whom she had a daughter.

Linda Lampenius left Hollywood after a few TV roles and a whole lot of off-stage drama.


Reporter, pictures: Tomi Hinkkanen

Consul general Kirsti Westphalen hosting the Finnish Hub on the tennis court of the consul general's residence in Bel Air.

The newly created forum for the LA Finns, the Finnish Hub, was held Tuesday night at the Consul General Kirsti Westphalen’s residence in Bel Air. 130 guests gathered on the tennis court, where Westphalen outlined the future of the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles. The consulate has been under a threat of closing down due to financial reasons. Finntimes has been active in gathering signatures for the consulate to remain open right here in LA, where it rightfully belongs. We thank each and every person who kindly signed our petition. Westphalen revealed, that the decision about the consulate will be made within days in Helsinki. We will bring you the latest news as soon as they become available. Westphalen would like to create a Creative House of Finland, where artists, scientists, business people and everybody would be welcome under the same roof. It would also serve as an address for Finnish start-ups that require a local presence. Since in the current economic environment funds are scarce, the consulate puts its emphasis on green technologies and education.

Kirsti Westphalen said that the faith of the Finnish Consulate general in LA will be decided within days.

Among the audience, there were executives from Tekes – a Finnish Technology Agency, as well as Aalto University. Also the music world was well represented due to the Musexpo convention that is going on in Hollywood. Merja Laaksonen from Tekes told that they have a budget of 600 million euros that helps Finnish high tech businesses. There is also a 70 million euro creative fund for such endeavors. Laura Laaksonen from Aalto University was doing her dissertation on the internationalization of Finnish heavy metal bands. Local attorney and Finntimes blogger Ava Anttila spoke about the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce, of which she is a member and invited new  businesses and individuals to join in. Sami Häikiö was here from Finland. He works for Music Export Finland, an organization dedicated to advancing Finnish music exports around the world. He told the organization has achieved great results, especially in Japan, where Finnish heavy metal is popular.

Cheers to Finland!

After the official speeches, there was an open mike for the audience members. Actress, singer and songwriter Irina Björklund wanted to see, if anything could be done to the facilitate Finnish and other international performers’ entry to the U.S. She said oftentimes performers have to wait for months to get a work visa to perform in the United States. A recent example comes from FinnFest, that was held last August in San Diego. The Finnish musicians had tough time in getting into the country and were questioned by the U.S.  immigration officials, who had asked,  couldn’t an American performer do the job instead. Westphalen replied that the Finnish government has tried to influence the powers to be. Of course it is up to the American officials to adjust their procedures and practices.

Irina Björklund with guitarist Steven McCormick and cameraman Janne Tamminen

There were also high flying ideas of creating an inn for Finns wanting to visit LA, complete with a restaurant and all. The reality of it is that if anything else, budgets are being tightened and as I mentioned before, the very existence of the consulate is in jeopardy. The government can’t do everything, Westphalen said with a smile . Maria Kizirian had a more realistic idea: Why not create an email list of volunteers, who would be willing to put up guests visiting from Finland in their own  homes. And she puts her money where her mouth is. Maria and her husband Paul Kizirian are currently hosting ex-Miss Finland, the lovely Pia Pakarinen in their home, as Pia is busily crafting a career for herself in modeling.

Maria Kizirian, in the middle, suggested an email list of volunteers who want to house Finns visiting Los Angeles.

The meeting lasted an hour and a half. It was truly the most comprehensive information package and a brainstorming session in recent memory held by the local Finns and their friends.

Fitness guru Pauliina Talus

After the meeting,  it was party time. There were many celebrities among the guests. Fitness guru Pauliina Talus had finished her Talus Integrated Training System – a workout program that fits the needs of any age or ability.  The new Lutheran pastor Jarmo Tarkki was there. He lives in Solvang, California and represents a large area encompassing Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and even Mexico City. The next LA area service will be held at St. Paul’s church in Santa Monica on May 20th. Pastor Tarkki was happy about the Easter service’s attendance – 85 people.

Finnish celebrity Sauli Koskinen, right, partied with his friends.

Finnish Big Brother winner from five years ago and singer Adam Lambert’s boyfriend Sauli Koskinen was partying with his friends. Sauli was in great spirits and tanned as ever. I asked him, if it was a real or spray tan. Sauli then took off one of his many rings, revealing a white spot on his skin underneath. Sauli said he takes every opportunity to tan on his rooftop in the couple’s home in Hollywood Hills.

sauli_koskinen_finntimes_com by Tomi Hinkkanen for Finntimes

Sauli Koskinen was tanned as ever and in great spirits.

Early on I spotted a familiar looking blond lady in the audience, then realizing it is Patrick Swayze’s widow Lisa Niemi. She came to the festivities with her mother-in-law Mary.

Patrick Swayze's widow, Lisa Niemi attended the Finnish Hub.

Lisa’s grandparents came to the U.S. from Finland. She said her father’s family was from northern Finland and mother’s family from Karelia. Lisa was in a good mood as well. Her husband Patrick died two and a half years ago of pancreatic cancer. Niemi wrote a book called “Worth Fighting For”, detailing her husband’s battle against cancer. It made it to the New York Times list of bestsellers. She is also a spokesperson for Pancreatic cancer Action Network and has her own website lisaniemiswayze.com


Lisa Niemi wrote a book "Worth Fighting For" about her husband's struggle with cancer

“Patrick lost his battle, but the fight against pancreatic cancer goes on,” Lisa Niemi declared.



It was a memorable evening at the Bel Air residence of the Finnish Consul General of Los Angeles. Under an enormous tent erected on the tennis court, some 500 party revelers celebrated the 94th anniversary of Finnish independence decked out to max.

Finnish Independence Celebration 2011 - Los Angeles

Among party guests were war veterans, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, key figures from various Finnish associations and even Hollywood celebrities.
Consul General Kirsti Westphalen has represented Finland in LA with flying colors. In her speech, she gave her guests a glimpse of the economic situation in Europe.

“We need more Europe, not less”, She remarked about the current crisis with the Euro. In Southern California, Westphalen emphasized education as a major effort. Recently 300 American educators attended a summit held in San Diego – a record number.

Finnish Independence Celebration 2011 - Los Angeles

James Koenig, who organizes the Scandinavian Film festival every January, did an amazing job singing the Finnish national anthem both in Finnish and Swedish, as well as belting out the Star Spangled banner in his native English. Reine Rimòn and Her Hot Papas entertained the crowd with New Orleans style Dixieland music.

Finnish Independence Celebration 2011 - Los Angeles

The Finnish Independence Gala attracted Finns and friends of Finns of many ages and from all walks of life as well as some Hollywood luminaries. Former magician Iiro Seppänen has transitioned into a new career as a Hollywood producer. He leads the Pan Pacific Entertainment – a company that focuses on Sino-American co-productions. Costume designer Susanna Puisto has been busy as always. For the last six months she has been designing costumes for the procedural TV show Body of Proof, starring Dana Delaney. Sirpa Selanne , the wife of Teemu, was celebrating without her husband who was busy playing hockey. The couple will go to Winnipeg to watch a game between Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets. The Selännes will spend Christmas in California. Ex-Miss Finland Pia Pakarinen was shining prettier than ever in a blue mini-dress. She is staying with Maria and Paul Kizirianin while studying acting at the Larry Moss Studio in Santa Monica. Pia intends to stay in LA until mid-January. Another student spotted from the crowd was fashion designer Paola Suhonen. The lovely Paola was wearing a beautiful lace dress. Pitsimekkoon Paola is studying cinematography at the American Film Institute. Makeup artist Riku Campo has been busy applying make-up to CSI Miami’s Cote De Tablo, and the International movie star couple Irina Bjorklund and Peter Franzen will be celebrating a Finnish Christmas in Los Angeles with their son and a live Santa Claus. Other luminaries included the very talented and handsomely dressed chef  Stefan Richter, the majestic UCLA basketball player Erica Tukiainen,  the ever so beautiful actress Anna Easteden and many others.

The Finnish flag was held high in the City of Angels in this beautiful and so very meaningful celebration to all of us. Thank you Consul General Kirsti Westphalen and everyone at the Consulate-General of Finland in Los Angeles for organizing such a memorable evening.

Finnish Independence Ball Los Angeles
Finnish Independence Celebration  – Los Angeles


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Päivi and Santeri Kannisto were a well-to-do Finnish couple with all the trappings of a successful life – both well educated with a nice house and great careers. But seven years ago they got tired of the rat race, sold all their worldly possessions and set out to tour the world – permanently.

Q. Talk about your life in Finland when you were still ”normal”,
working career people?

Santeri had an open source software house for some 12 years and Päivi
worked as a Management Consultant.

Q. It seems that both of you had found your vocation. You had an
interesting careers that no doubt paid quite well. What are the
reasons why you grew tired of that kind of a standard western life?

Those careers were what others expected us to do, not what we wanted
from our lives. Päivi wanted to travel and Santeri wanted to devote
his life for love and get rid of possessions.

Q. You allowed three months to prepare for your new nomadic life
style. Lift that curtain a little – what did you do with taxation,
property and how much savings did you take with you?

We finance our travelling by writing books. Our income is modest but
we consume very little nowadays. Our average total monthly spending
varies between US 400-700$. The taxation keeps on taxing no matter if
they have the right to do it any longer or not. Our income is too low
for any country to tax and most of it consists of tax free grants.

Päivi sold her property and Santeri walked out of his life leaving
everything behind. Santeri’s possessions ended up mostly to the
pockets of lawyers fighting for what was left.

Q. The United States and Finland are both expensive countries – every
time you leave your house, you spend money on gas, food, shopping,
etc. What kind of a daily budget do you normally have – how much is
spent of food, lodging, transportation, etc. and do you select the
countries you go to based on the costs?

We buy fruits and vegetables (we are vegans) and cook ourselves. We
walk distances under 10 miles and use the cheapest public
transportation available for longer distances, and use Couch Surfing.
If we stay around in a place for a bit longer, we rent a small
room/apartment and often help the landlord to decrease the rent by
doing renovation work, installing electricity, fixing things,
painting, etc.

Our living costs have varied very little between countries and
continents. We don’t buy stuff except the bare minimum such as clothes
and shoes, and laptops for writing. There is enough pollution in the
world without us increasing it by consuming products and services.

Working in the traditional sense of the word and possessing cars and
real estate are the most expensive things in life. We don’t do any of
them. We have no need to show off with possessions.

Q. What kind of cultural differences and barriers have you run into?

In Finland people take shoes off when they enter someone’s house. We
do that, too. Sometimes it has been hard to convince people from other
cultures to do the same when they come to our place.

Q. You have said that some countries have been pleasant and some less
pleasant surprises – tell us a little of both – which countries have
you liked, which not and why?

We like countries that allow free debate and do not condemn
differences in opinion. We avoid countries that believe they can make
peace by killing people or countries that support or participate in
such activities. For us, there is no acceptable excuse in taking any
life, human or animal. We are all one. If you hurt others, you end up
hurting yourself.

Q. I bet you have run into some characters on your travels – tell us
about some of the most memorable people you have met?

Meeting Professor Erik Cohen was definitely such an occasion. We have
been doing research on lifestyle travellers and he is also interested
in the subject. We went to see him and ended up sharing a wonderful
night together cooking and talking philosophy. He is almost 80 and
beat us in speed walking.

Q. Right now you are in China. What part of the country are you at and
what is life like there?

We are right now in Guangzhou in the province of Canton in Southern
China. We are staying this week with our American friend from Iowa
whom we met four years ago when we were touring China for the first
time. The country itself is not very tempting because of visas and
pollution, but we came here to meet our friends.

The environment is pretty much spoiled thanks to all products made for
the Western countries. In bigger cities you can’t see the blue sky,
it’s just grey and hazy all year around. Western companies come to
China where it is cheaper to make products. The reason why it is so
much cheaper is because they don’t have to care about labour or
environment. Unfortunately the pollution does not respect the borders
and will eventually spread everywhere just like Fukushima radiation.
It’s pretty short-sighted.

Q. You mention the internet censorship in China – talk about that and
have you witnessed other kind of human rights abuse there?

Four years ago it was possible to find open proxies and web services
allowing access to censored web services. None of them work any more.
The only viable option is to buy a vpn service which is both costly
and technically challenging, because vpn documentation and client
downloads have been blocked, too.

Human rights are rhetoric everywhere in the world, not just in China.
For example freedom of movement has been limited with all kinds of
artificial restrictions and payments. Think about having to obtain a
permit to practise a religion and then pay a fee every 5 years to have
your freedom of religion.

Perhaps the situation is a bit better now, because Google is no more
working in China revealing the emails of dissidents to the government
for persecution.

Q. You are currently doing a study of the nomadic lifestyle and you
have interviewed other people who share this lifestyle with you – give
us a little peak into what you have found out?

We interviewed 30 contemporary nomads (9 Americans) from 17 countries,
who have been travelling the world continuously over 4 years without
permanent residence or work. Many of the travellers wanted to get rid
of the Rat Race and enjoy adventures, idleness, and masterless life.
They are not owned by countries or corporations. They are
professionals of travelling for whom the mobile lifestyle has solved
some of the biggest mysteries in life. The book will be published next

Q. You are both now about 40 years old. After six years on the road,
how long do you think you can keep on traveling and will there come a
point when one simply gets too old to do that – in other words, have
you talked about eventually settling down, and if so, where?

We are both 41 and have been 7 years on the road. This is now our 8th
year. For us, the future does not exist. We are living in this very
moment with only one plan: no plans. Earlier we had the idea of
finding a perfect place and settling down, but then we discovered
there are are too many of them and so many places still to see, so we
kept going.

Q. In the United States the Occupy movement has spread into every
major city. The Occupy people demonstrate against corporate and
capitalistic greed. Do you feel affinity with the Occupy movement?

We have no sympathy for corporate and capitalist greed, nor for police
states that some of the Western countries represent. In that sense, we
feel affinity and might well stop by to spend a few days in such a

Q. How often do you visit your family and friends in Finland?

Last time we visited Finland in 2006. Some of our family members and
friends have come to visit us abroad which has worked better for us.
People tend to have more time for us when they are on holiday.

Q. What do you think is the best country in the world?

There are so many of them. Some countries we like a lot include
Brazil, France, and the city of Hong Kong.

Q. And the worst?

In general all countries. It is an absurd idea to divide the small
earth into even smaller pieces of land (countries) that quarrel with
each other and try to build barriers between people instead of uniting

We tend to avoid countries that charge for visas or entry permits
complicating border crossings. Visas are the best way to unwelcome

Q. What is the most valuable thing you have learned from your travels?

Less is more. Travels have taught us that we don’t need much, and the
less we have, the happier we are. When we possess something, that
thing starts to possess us and as a consequence, we loose our freedom.

Q. What is your typical day like – I mean, what do you do and how
much is spent on working?

It depends if we are Couch Surfing or renting a room. With other
people we usually follow their rhytm and habits. When we are alone, we
usually wake up before sunrise, have a morning walk or go jogging,
then write a bit, prepare lunch, go shopping groceries, sometimes
watch a film or play computer games, and go to bed soon after sunset.

Q. What happens if either one of you gets sick?

Santeri does not believe in medicine and if Päivi gets seriously sick,
we travel to a third world country such as Thailand that offers
affordable, high-quality medical services.

Q. Have you been in danger?

We visited Indonesia 2 weeks after the Bali bombings. The island was
empty of tourists and local businessmen were desperate. One evening we
we went to a hotel and agreed the price. In the morning, the business
owner wanted to double the price. We declined his offer and then he
started taking our photos with his camera phone and sending them to
his friends saying that they would come and beat us. Then he showed
his backyard and told that the previous tourists who refused to pay,
had been killed there. We sat down with him smiling and repeated that
we are happy to pay him the agreed sum. After 3 hours, he gave up and
accepted the agreed payment.

Visit Päivi & Santeri’s fascinating website for more information, pictures and videos: